2016 Favorites

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Sarah Drasner on (Updated on )

As the year closes, it’s good to reflect on all of the things we as a community have built, contemplated, and contributed to. Here are some of the things we read or watched that we enjoyed and think were important in 2016.

Sarah’s Picks

How Technology Hijacks People’s Minds — from a Magician and Google’s Design Ethicist

A really interesting read that asks the question: Where does technology exploit our minds’ weaknesses?

So You Want to Build A Generator

The creator of Tracery, an approachable story grammar for authoring Twitter bots and the like, talks frankly and hilariously about creating generative code.

The Inner Workings of the Virtual DOM

Ever wondered how the Virtual DOM works? I sure have. This well-researched post has you covered.

Learning Functional Programming with JavaScript

A good starter watch about functional programming, extremely well explained.

Why Net Neutrality Matters (And What You Can Do To Help)

Not really a technical article, but a funny and pretty important watch if you build stuff for the webbernets.

Dumb ES6 Tricks

Some of these snippets are incredibly helpful, a good one to bookmark.

Grid By Example

Rachel Andrew takes you through learning Grid in installments, with great demos and examples.

On the Spectrum of Abstraction

Cheng-Lou, the creator of React-Motion, muses on one of the core principles of programming: degrees of abstraction.

Robin’s Picks

We Need to Talk About Technical Debt

Harry Roberts describes the differences between technical debt and bad code. This post is helpful because sometimes it can be a struggle to prioritize which parts of the codebase requires our immediate attention.

Variable Fonts

Variable fonts are a relatively new technology which is effectively a new font format: it lets us use one web font and then stretch it into a bunch of different widths and sizes based on parameters within the font. So if you need a bold weight you don’t need to add a new typeface, it all comes bundled together. Roel Nieskens wrote about the future of web type for Typographica and he details the who/what/why succinctly.

This is a feature which is going to make a series of nifty improvements to typography, web performance and design in the very near future.

My Increasing Wariness of Dogmatism

Chris wrote about his increasing wariness of dogmatism:

It’s certainly wordier to avoid dogma when you’re trying to make a point. But it’s more honest. It’s more clear. It’s showing empathy for people out there doing things different. It makes it easier for others to empathize with you.

Sometimes a snarky, know-it-all tone just isn’t helpful or constructive and in that post Chris perfectly describes the general culture that can be found in the tech industry at large.

GT America

The GT America type family is one of our favorite releases of the year but the website that shows off all of the neat features and styles is a delightful piece of design.


This year Figma started to roll out of public beta and although it’s missing some crucial features it has a certain hyperlinkability — the way in which you can copy a simple URL and direct other folks to what you’re working on — and that’s far more important for working on large teams of engineers and designers.

Chris’ Picks

A Comprehensive Guide to Font Loading Strategies

I’m so so glad Zach put this together this year. Loading fonts in a performant and responsible way is (sadly, I think) quite tricky. It’s nice to have a distilled guide to reference that clearly lays out the pros and cons, and most importantly, gives you working reduced test case version of each.

Front End Center

I think Glen Maddern has a real knack for teaching through video. I’m glad he’s launched a thing that has both free and paid videos. Just like Wes Bos courses. I like to see the small-guy entrepreneur do well with tech education.


Gosh that was fun. It got me into video games again for a quick minute.

Leveling Up with React

Brad Westfall’s 3-part series (starting here) did a fantastic job of going beyond the “Hello, World!” stuff and getting right into practical, real-world site creation with React and Redux. It went a long way in my understanding.

I Left My System Fonts in San Francisco

System Fonts were like a thing this year. Craig Hockenberry perhaps kicked it off in 2015, but this was the year it became a widely popular choice.

Why I believe GraphQL will come to replace REST

The list of the hottest web tech of year, as it seemed to me, was: React, Redux, Webpack, SVG, Vue, Babel, PostCSS, and GraphQL. Elm is maybe a runner up.

Seth’s Blog

I still love reading Seth Godin’s blog. Dude writes every single day and it’s usually short, sweet, and insightful. I say “still” because he’s been blogging since 2002.

Fluid Type

I think my favorite CSS innovation this year was fluid type. This was another of those things that was kinda kicked off (by Mike Riethmuller) in 2015 but blew up a lot bigger in 2016. As in, Mike winning best of show at CSS Dev Conf explaining it, “CSS locks“, etc.